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The Years of Lead: the First Republic is put to the test [BLOG POST 1]

By Jacob Braun

A Photo of the Aftermath of the Bologna Massacre, Beppe Briguglio, via WikiMedia Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

The Years of Lead (Anni di Piombo) began with the Hot Autumn strikes of 1969, where massive amounts of workers joined students protesting for social reforms in a similar fashion to the May 1968 demonstrations in France. Violence from both left- and right-wing sources would emerge, and for 15 terrible years the internal cohesion of the Italian First Republic was truly put to the test. This blog post looks to answer: is its failure what set us in motion to where we are now in 2022?


In efforts to avoid an economic collapse following the Hot Autumn, the Christian Democratic Party reached out in a historical compromise (compromesso storico) with the Communist Party. With the tensions of the ongoing Cold War and fears of a Communist takeover within NATO, the conservative anti-communist governments of the time weren’t too thrilled. Thus, General Giovanni de Lorenzo prepared an emergency plan to be undertaken by the Carabinieri Arma (Solo Plan) to take over the government in the case of such an eventuality. This affair would be found out in 1964 and the SIFAR would be disbanded, but that didn’t stop the Italian government from undertaking a different strategy towards the violence in the decades to come.


The Italian government in its quest for stability ostensibly collaborated with far right-wing groups in blaming attacks during the Years of Lead on far left-wing groups to popularize authoritarian policies amongst the people. This would essentially cement right-wing dominance in Italian politics to this day, morphing Italy into a stronghold of conservative politics.

Elections in Italy since 1946, Nick Mon, via WikiMedia Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license


The political violence, scandals and corruption of the Years of Lead (we’ll go into the corruption in my next post!) almost irreparably destabilized Italy. It has certainly left its mark, seeing as about 53 years later Italians are still haunted by it. A transition period would be set in motion by the Years of Lead, paving the way for populist rhetoric to decisively entrench itself in the echelons of Italian government. I aim to post about the development of this populist rhetoric across the transition period from the Years of Lead to now, so hopefully this will all make sense once I’ve posted the rest of this “timeline.”

Ciao, until next time!


2 thoughts on “The Years of Lead: the First Republic is put to the test [BLOG POST 1]

  1. This was a really thoughtful post Jacob! It was really interesting learning about the years of lead for me because before this class I thought myself pretty well versed with 20th century history yet I was not aware that this event even existed. I find it interesting that you draw comparisons to the 1968 demonstrations in France, because this certainly was not the only time in history the left and the right have clashed in a way that lead to violence surfacing as a result. I find in a way these years sort of paralleled alongside the greater cold war. This is primarily due to the fact that you have two opposing ideologies in a standoff with one another that is constantly being worsened because of small outbreaks of violence.


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